Friday, September 01, 2006

A Prayer for the Mayor

SVILUPPO: Mayor Bob O'Connor died at 8.55 tonight local time. A statement was released by Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, a Pittsburgh native and its former bishop.

At this hour, the other edge of our fair Commonwealth is experiencing an eerie limbo as the health of Mayor Bob O'Connor of Pittsburgh has taken a turn for the worse.

O'Connor, 61, who just took the reins of Pennsylvania's second city in January, was diagnosed in late June with central nervous system lymphoma, a rare form of brain cancer. He has been hospitalized since July 10, and in recent weeks handed his powers to a deputy mayor in light of complications from multiple surgeries and setbacks -- but not before ending a power struggle in his administration by firing three top aides from his hospital bed and having them escorted out of Pittsburgh's City-County Building within minutes. O'Connor was taken off life support last night, and the official word is that his endurance is an "hour-by-hour" matter.

If O'Connor indeed slips away, the mayoralty will fall to the 26 year-old City Council President, Luke Ravenstahl, who with other top city officials attended a midday Mass and subsequent ecumenical prayer service held for the stricken leader, a devout Catholic.
The daily noon Mass at St. Mary was dedicated to the mayor today, followed by an interfaith prayer service hastily arranged by the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh. Mr. Ravenstahl, Councilman Jim Motznik, Allegheny County Sheriff Pete DeFazio, State Sen. Jay Costa, Jr., acting city Controller Tony Pokora, Deputy Mayor Yarone Zober and other city and county officials were among the 150 who filled the church.

Pastor Donald Green of Christian Associates of Southwestern Pennsylvania called Mr. O'Connor "a witness who has cheered on family and friends and indeed a whole city" and saw his destiny as a place "where there is no more pain or sorrow."

And in reference to his heir apparent, Mr. Ravenstahl, Green said, "For your sake we will cheer him on."

Rabbi James Gibson of Temple Sinai said, "We know that sometimes we can leave this world whole and healed, even if we are not cured."

And Bishop Paul Bradley, administrator of the Catholic diocese, read the Beatitudes, which famously begin in the Matthew version, "Blessed are the poor in spirit."

Bishop Bradley praised Mr. O'Connor as "a good man, an honest man, a man of faith, a man who has used the Beatitudes as the standard to guide his own life."

Diocesan spokesman the Rev. Ron Lengwin said former Pittsburgh bishop Donald Wuerl, now the archbishop of Washington, D.C., was being kept informed of the mayor's condition and was hoping to return to Pittsburgh should a funeral be necessary and should his schedule permit it.
In a separate statement, Wuerl said that "This is a time of very real prayer. Mayor Bob O'Connor is such a good man, means so much to the City of Pittsburgh and to his friends that we're all praying for him.

“We're simply asking the Lord to be with him and his family, his wife Judy and his kids, for the whole family and for Bob,” Wuerl added. “We're offering our prayers, we're with him in spirit. We're with him in a great deal of love."

In one of his last official engagements before his condition became known, Mayor O'Connor attended Archbishop Wuerl's June installation in Washington; then-Bishop Wuerl ordained Terence O'Connor, the mayor's son, to the priesthood for the diocese of Pittsburgh in 2001. Fr Terry has proven himself a popular parochial vicar in his assignments, and he's got a notable vocation story.

Keep the O'Connors in your thoughts.

Steve Mellon/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette